By on March 30, 2011

Remember the story about the rotating power rationing in Japan? One for all, all for one? It appears that it is pure fantasy. On Saturday, The Nikkei [sub] wrote that Japanese automakers are considering running their factories in rotation to help cut the industry’s electricity consumption. The wire service said that “automakers are expected to hold a consultative meeting shortly at the office of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association to agree a rotational schedule.” The story had originated on the usually reliable and sometimes uncomfortably persistent Kyodo wire. On Monday, the story grew legs. Automotive News [sub] reported that the electronic industries don’t want to be left behind and demand rotating production holidays between the automotive and electronics industries. It now emerges that it was all wishful thinking.

Today, I called a few members of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association to find out how the meeting went and what was decided. All JAMA members contacted said that there was no such meeting. There wasn’t even such a plan.

One industry insider said “I saw the Kyodo story last week. Closing 7-11 on Monday, Family Mart on Tuesday and Lawson’s on Wednesday sounds like a simple idea. The problem is, the car industry isn’t that simple.”

A contact at another JAMA member said: “If anyone should know about this meeting, then it’s me. I don’t know about this meeting.”

All industry sources contacted confirmed that the lack of reliable power is a huge problem. “We can fix our plants. We can give our suppliers the assistance they need,” said an executive at a leading JAMA member. “We wish we could provide our suppliers with power.”

Once the usually hot and humid summer has arrived in Japan, the power problem will be much bigger than now. According to the manufacturers, there is no simple solution in sight, not even a complicated one. All they know is that the power will be scarce and more expensive.

Who would have thought that a lack of electricity will put a big dent into the Japanese, and by extension the world’s auto industry?

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7 Comments on “The Big Japanese Power Sharing Story: Pure Fantasy...”

  • avatar

    Pardon me for being a paranoid conspiracy theorist but weren’t there only two down power plants? And they affected all those factories that bad? Germany just shut down seven plants.

    • 0 avatar

      The country has two power grids.  The affected area near the power plants use at 50 cycles per second.  In the south and western part of Japan, the grid uses 60 cycles per second.
      Also, keep in mind that Fukushima has 6 reactors that are down.

    • 0 avatar

      The original story had a link to a document by the Japanese Institute of Energy Economics. It spells it all out in neat tables.

  • avatar

    When I saw that story I wondered how the electronics guys would deal with rotating blackouts.  I don’t know about automobile factories, but I wouldn’t think that semiconductor fabs could handle the power dropping off.  My understanding is that it’s a continuous process, and things like clean rooms have to stay powered the entire time.  Periodic power losses would play havoc with that.

  • avatar

    I wonder (hope?) if Japan will view rebuilding from this disaster as an opportunity to merge their grids’ cycle frequency.  Low-voltage 50Hz can be a real PITA for some manufacturers of electromechanical equipment (like the company I work for).  Some items just don’t like the 50Hz Japanese supply, especially since its voltage window seems to trend to the low side anyway.

  • avatar

    I know this is totally OT; but this quote has left me verblufft sein:
    “One industry insider said “I saw the Kyodo story last week. Closing 7-11 on Monday, Family Mart on Tuesday and Lawson’s on Wednesday sounds like a simple idea. The problem is, the car industry isn’t that simple.” ”
    I haven’t heard or seen a mention of Lawson’s in at least 25+ years, and I had no idea they had been operating in Japan (and now China!) for a number of years now (thank you Wikipedia). it’s hard for me to fathom that a convenience store chain that took root 45 mins away from where I’m from, moved to the Far East and is prospering… Weird…

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